Album review: Florence And The Machine - 'Lungs'
After the hype and the hate it’s just… OK
Pretty much every molecule of Florence And The Machine divides opinion, scoring a line of taste like a Stanley knife through a forearm. Live, Florence ‘Flossie’ Welch dresses up as a clown, flails around like a cattle prod-poked octopus, throat-wobble warbling. Fifty people we asked randomly on Oxford Street said she was the most brilliantly captivating performer this side of Slipknot in stage-destruction mode. The other 50 said it was the most toe-curling, attention-grabbing half-hour since Myleene Klass took
a shower in the Australian jungle.
Then there’s her antics on the London party scene. Depending on which gossip girl you happen to be, Florence could be a whirlwind of fun and late-night laughter, stumbling out of Punk with equally affable types like Agyness Deyn and Grimmy. Or she’s the girl spinning around on the members’ club dancefloor with her legs in the air in a pathetic attempt to draw stares away from Peaches Geldof – a stunt no more classy or less contrived than a nipple slip from a mid-table Premier League winger’s ex-girlfriend outside Movida. It all sets up the most hyped and derided singer of the year’s debut album to be the biggest love-or-loathe opinion-divider since Jigga bought his wellies for Worthy Farm. Which makes it so surprising
that ‘Lungs’ is so distinctly… OK.
Beginning her recorded career with garage-rock stomper single ‘Kiss With A Fist’ was a brave move – if
only because it could have been difficult to recover from kicking off with a song so shamelessly derivative of ‘White Blood Cells’-era White Stripes that it’s almost laughable. However, as the only song on the album remotely resembling a conventional indie number, and being more tuneful than anything Jack White has written since harnessing decreasingly fruitful returns with The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, it’s still certainly a blast.
While ‘Kiss With A Fist’ is a stylistic island on ‘Lungs’, its lyrical intensity bobs throughout the rest of the album – even if the musical pedigree doesn’t. On the likes of ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ producers James Ford and Paul Epworth (who else?) create epic cauldron-swirls of Terminator-theme drums, Massive Attack atmospherics and twinkle-eye harp matched by Florence’s grappling
of skyward choruses. But with the likes of ‘I’m Not Calling You A Liar’ and ‘Howl’ boasting similarly windy production yet no identifiable tunes the results sound aimless – if harmless.
To irk the Florence-haters, these moments are shruggably boring rather than skin-crawlingly irritating, although there is one appalling song to fill doubters’ ammo chambers snugly. ‘Girl With One Eye’ features Florence drunkenly yelling in a show of hellish vocal flexing that’d make even Johnny Borrell cringe – which is even more unfortunate as he’s rumoured to have had a hand in writing some of her songs. It’s almost unmentionable, as is Florence’s decision to include her cover of Candi Staton’s ‘You Got The Love’
as a bonus track. Unless you’re Spirit doing ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, cover versions should be kept far away
from studio albums.
But while those numbers might serve to galvanise negative preconceptions about Florence And The Machine, ‘Hurricane Drunk’, a ’90s house-pop derived Porsche-drive of a tune that marks the album’s peak, played alone would be enough to convert the most serpent-tongued cynic. If only it was
a thread long enough to weave through the whole album and tie it together… as it is, it may be breathtaking in places, but Flossie’s ‘Lungs’ are just a bit too full of bluster.
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Click here to get your copy of Florence And The Machines’ ‘Lungs’ from the Rough Trade shop